Avoiding Short Cuts Will Enhance Your Future Success

Short Cuts derail successLast week, I responded to an Ask Larry question regarding the common mistakes people tend to make in life and I enumerated my reply in list form. I was inspired to write today’s blog based on #10,You think you already know how things work.” It made me think about short cuts.

Even though the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, if that straight line happens to take more time than we anticipated, we will forego the obvious and pursue a short cut. It will always be simple human nature for some to try to find hidden detours that will save them time and/or money to help expedite the results they want. Never mind the fact that they have prior knowledge of others unsuccessfully attempting this same short cut, or worse yet, believe they are the smartest person in the room and therefore, will clearly be the first to successfully complete such a unique undertaking. Their ignorance and/or arrogance usually overshadows their common sense and leads them to shun their instincts—shutting up that simple little voice in their head that reminds them that if they choose to pursue such a detour or undertaking, it will most likely fall under the category of, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is!” Yet despite their rational inner voice, people still manage to ignore their instincts, start their life engines (without a GPS), and embark down their own mental interstates only to find themselves lost and stuck in the middle of life’s nowhere.

Why the urge?! What possesses normal, intelligent, educated adults (young and old alike) to ignore basic common sense? It took me a mere ten years to answer this question, but before I share my answer, I want to tell you a true story.

Back in 1996, I discovered the stock market. Discount brokerage firms such as E-Trade, Ameritrade, and Charles Schwab were enticing the Wannabe Wealthy with a new platform called online trading. For only about a third of what traditional discount brokerage firms previously charged us for commissions, one could now go online, research their own stocks, and execute their own trades. America was in the middle of a raging bull market and we were the Captains of our own financial destiny—only a click or two away from financial freedom.

At this same time, I began studying the investment strategies of value investors, Ben Graham and his successful protégé, Warren Buffett. The tenets of both Graham and Buffett’s investing strategies were simply, be patient and wait for a company’s stock to become undervalued (or cheaper) compared to its fundamentals (e.g. financials) and then as Buffett likes to say, “Be greedy when others are fearful, be fearful when others are greedy.” Simple advice, straight forward… Success was around the corner!

Nonetheless, I chose to ignore these simple lessons, forego patience, and embark on my own investing strategy. Hey, it was a bull market, everyone was making money, and I was, afterall, the smartest person in the room. That lasted until March 10, 2000—the day when the so-called “dot-com bubble” finally burst. Through 2000-2001, those once high-flying, overpriced dot-com technology stocks started tumbling right along with my paper stock profits. Both were in utter free-fall. Here’s the crazy-irony of the story: on May 1, 2000, I attended the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder’s meeting and listened intently (or so I thought) to Warren Buffett as he answered an attendee’s question. When asked why Berkshire Hathaway was not investing in technology stocks, Buffett replied (as best as I can recall), “The Dairy Queen Dilly Bar will far outlast many of the dot-com companies.”

Sadly, I did not listen. I ignored my basic common sense because I wanted a quick fix. Like so many, I was insistent on taking my own short cuts.

The ten-year lesson for me was simple: stop taking short cuts. As in all aspects of life, there are no quick detours to success. To quote the great Opera singer, Beverly Sills, “There are no short cuts to any place worth going.” Success for normal, intelligent, educated adults (young and old alike) is patience, dedication, determination, and most importantly, persistence.

There is no such thing as an overnight success. It takes MANY years of hard work, learning, experimenting, and failing. Be patient and focused as you design YOUR sustainable life plan with realistic, attainable short-term and long-term goals. By avoiding unnecessary short cuts now, you will definitely enhance your probable outcomes in growing your future success.


Sliding Doors for Success

Did you ever have that feeling of disappointment when you really set your mind to doing or achieving something and it did not turn out quite the way you planned? You sat down and drew out all the action steps necessary to achieve your desired goals; you studied or learned a new skill; you spoke to others you believed were the right people that could help you get what you had been looking forward to for months and then wham; nothing.

My Dad used to refer to this unfortunate universal outcome as Man Plans; God Laughs.  Despite all your well-intentioned efforts, things don’t always turn out as you planned, but was that really by accident?

There was a 1998 movie called Sliding Doors with actress Gwyneth Paltrow that looked at one day in time and examined several possible outcomes based upon a series of different events. If this had not happened at that exact moment, then this would not have occurred, and on and on.  We all have experienced those moments at some time in our lives and it’s enough to make you crazy. But there may be some truth to all of this.

Disappointment, or more importantly negative emotions, that results from unpopular outcomes may simply be nothing more than a sliding door moment in your life ahead of something better in the near future. Although our immediate instinct is to get angry or upset at ourselves or others, maybe we just need to take that same moment to ask ourselves if that outcome was really something that we truly needed or wanted.

Rather than shutting ourselves off from other possible opportunities that may lie in our path, we could take this opportunity to pat ourselves on the back for attempting something that we thought we wanted. All the time and effort that we put in to learning something new or networking was not wasted because even though we did not accomplish our immediate goal, we did put other things into motion whether we realized it or not…and who knows what new opportunities will lie ahead as a result of those efforts?

As my friend Andrea Squibb recently reminded me when I got frustrated because things did not work out exactly as I planned, although it was nerve wracking for me, I still have my plan and I did take the necessary time to think things through. Although I did not get the immediate response that I wanted, I should still give things time to play out before I give in to my disappointment.

She also reminded me that some unexpected positive things have also recently happened to me, thanks to my good friend Jennifer Wilkov, and that I was on the right path. This was a great lesson for me to keep my eye on the positives and let the other stuff go.

I will plan to continue my efforts toward accomplishing those intended goals, but I will also remember to take the time to appreciate and accept things that may also come my way simply by keeping my eyes and ears open for unexpected detours.

Some great takeaways:

  • Don’t stay too focused on a desired outcome if it prevents you from experiencing or seeing other opportunities that lie right in front of you.
  • Keep things in perspective; “Rome wasn’t built in a day” as they say. Temper your expectations accordingly.
  • Most importantly, success is awarded to those that always follow their hearts and continue to practice patience and persistence.